Friday, November 03, 2006


Another "Bush Administration Failure"

And this is a big one -- when the Bush Administration made thousands of Saddam's documents available online, they included some detailed plans for building nuclear weapons.

You know, the Iraqi nuclear weapons that were never a threat to us...

I wouldn't have thought that I'd see both statements in the same article. But here it is, courtesy of
Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to "leverage the Internet" to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
. . .
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
. . .
The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.

The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation's spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents--most of them in Arabic--would reinvigorate the search for clues that Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.

Admittedly, this is very carefully-worded, so that it doesn't look like it's arguing against itself. But think about it for a moment. The complaints have been loud and unceasing, against the Bush Administration, that we invaded Iraq solely to find WMD (which is untrue), that we didn't find any WMD there (also untrue), that therefore there could not have been any WMD to find (which is a strange claim to make, about a country the size of California, with room to hide all sorts of things)... and that, therefore, Iraq was never a threat to us to begin with, and should never have been invaded.

Except that, even if you manage to swallow all that, now we're also hearing criticism of the Bush Administration for mistakenly publishing documents -- Iraqi documents -- that give detailed instructions on preparing tabun, sarin, and rudimentary nuclear weapons. (Sounds like justification to me. Were we supposed to wait until after the weapons were built? Are we expected to believe that Saddam had the blueprints, but never planned to use them... except, maybe, as wallpaper?)

For that matter, some people claim --see the article above -- that the invasion of Iraq is only justified if we can prove that Saddam restarted his WMD development programs after 1991, while UN sanctions were in place. But does that really make sense, now that we know he had blueprints like these sitting on the shelf? The man, and his regime, were a ticking time bomb; all that was in doubt was when the bomb might go off, and whether it was possible to stop him in time.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely think it was a mistake, and a big one, to let these documents out into the open. An understandable mistake, perhaps, given the tremendous volume of the documents -- but still a terrible mistake. (After all, if the CIA doesn't have enough people to vet all those documents, then they should have fixed that problem, long ago. Analyzing top-secret documents is their job, not ours. If the CIA doesn't have enough agents in the field, and doesn't have enough analysts at home, then we really do have to wonder what they do for a living.)

Nonetheless, it makes no sense to criticize the Bush Administration for not finding WMDs, and then to criticize them again for publishing the blueprints of the nonexistent WMDs. Why, that makes about as much sense as criticizing the Administration for permitting North Korea to go nuclear... while at the same time criticizing the Administration for daring to contemplate an attack against Iran before it goes nuclear. (Nobody would say that in the same article, would they?)

UPDATE: Dadmanly has more. And Smash points out that, for once, the New York Times should be applauded for blowing the whistle. I agree.

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